Week 25 and we've got a visit from Mr BRKfest, Solarbear! Get yourself ready, Curtis Ware ain't messing ya, catch the track here!
WT: To begin with, how did you first come into contact with the chiptune scene?
Solarbear: I guess it all started when I saw the movie "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World". I loved the music in that movie, so I bought the soundtrack. Good stuff. The last track on it was a chiptune version of the song "Threshold" and it was, honestly, the first chiptune I'd ever heard. After a few Google searches and YouTube vids about chiptune I stumbled upon the documentary "Reformat the Planet" on Hulu and I was hooked! It was all downhill from there, haha!
WT: Do artists like Bit Shifter play a big influence on your music, or do you draw influence from elsewhere?
S: Well, of course many of the "classic" chiptune artists have a little something or other to do with my sound, but honestly I'm REALLY ignorant of pre-2012 chiptune, haha! I don't know my history. Most of my influence comes from bands that I enjoy like Between the Buried and Me, Dillinger Escape Plan and Queens of the Stone Age. I guess that's why I've never been very good at "dance" chip music and have found myself more under a "progressive rock" type of distinction.
WT: So would you say live you’re attempting to emulate a style more similar to chiptune or prog rock, or something freeform altogether?
S: I guess that depends on what exactly you define chiptune as. Personally, I think it's much less a genre and much more of a set of instruments, like Brass, String, Woodwind, Chiptune, etc. That in mind, I'd say I write progressive rock with an arsenal of chiptune devices.
WT: Could you tell us a bit about BRKfest, how it came about and the upcoming second annual incarnation please?
S: Oh dat BRK....
Once upon a time in Cincinnati, Andrew Gould, Hunter Quinn and I joked about how cool it'd be to make our own chiptune festival and like 6 months later and hundreds of man hours in, we did it! Seriously though, it was a ton of hard work, incredible luck and the assistance of so many awesome, caring people.This year is looking even bigger than last time with a hefty 27 unique and killer artists! That's not even including the Datathrash Preshow! It's gonna be one hell of a ride, that's for sure!
WT: What goes into deciding who plays?
S: More than anything else, the most important thing is passion. That's why we've invited many more up-and-coming artists than long established ones. The guys who are really shooting for it are the ones who deserve to play, so that's who we get. Other than, that... submit demos and make good music!!!
WT: Recently you played 8static. How did that come about and how did you find the experience?
S: Oh man!! 8static was something outta this world!! Emily from 8static hit me up a month beforehand, asking if I would be interested in playing June's edition. Of course, I was ecstatic, especially after finding out I'd be sharing the stage with StormBlooper and Ultrasyd!
It might have honestly been the best experience in my life. So many good chip artists showed their stuff at the open mic, StormBlooper and Ultrasyd killed it, and I crowd surfed while playing some live mode jams, hahaha!! Awesome.
WT: Could you tell us a bit about how you went about creating Solarbear Daisuki please?
S: Well, Solarbear Daisuki took about a year to compose and about two months to mix and master. (I have a day job... So shut up. I know how long that is.) I had some very tight assistance from the ever so lovely Roboctopus and plenty of mixing tips from the master of disaster Smiletron so... I guess all in all, it didn't come out too badly!
In all honestly, the "Solarbear Daisuki" train is still rolling since I'll be adding posters of the album's cover to my bandcamp merch this month!!
WT: What were the influences behind Solarbear Daisuki, and what prompted the violent nods to Japanese culture?
S: Aside from the progressive metal influences that I've touched on already, Roboctopus' "Victory Lapse" and an0va's "Teaching Machine" were large chip influences on my style and pacing. Both of those albums are very "song" oriented... and by that I mean they aren't just dance music to be played in clubs. Those albums, to me, have a very lyrical quality in their leads and I tried to grab a hold of that on Solarbear Daisuki, especially on the song "How to Properly Use a Semicolon".
Honestly, the nod to Japanese themes was more of a later thought. It was really half my own preferences in art and theme; the other half was what I thought individuals who would enjoy my music would find appealing. In truthfulness, I think it worked quite well.
WT: Could you tell us a bit about the nearing-iconographic cover art of Solar Daisuki, who drew it and why you chose that cover?
S: Iconographic?! You flatter me, you fucking charmer, you! Haha!
I'm of the mind-set that to get a good commissioned piece of art, you have to know an artist's strengths and weaknesses. The cover was drawn by anime artist "Emperpep", who I've had the pleasure of being aware of for a long time. That way, I knew that whatever I commissioned them to do would come out well. I gave them a LOT of freedom in the cover (basically saying, "It's for an album... Gameboys... neon anime girls...") and they pulled out that awesome piece!
I put the text over top of the art myself and I think it came out mostly OK, but that cover was one of the best decisions I've ever made, haha!
WT: Could you tell us about the specific influences that went into your Weekly Treat submission?
S: "Animals Do Not Belong in the Street" didn't specifically come from any influence, I think, other than just me beat boxing while I drive home, haha. (I like to try to beat box in odd time signatures at high tempos, lol) Obviously, my math rock/progressive metal love is where the piece takes its root, but probably not any more than any of the rest of my work after the summer of 2012. Still, I think it's a pretty decent piece and I hope it'll be a solid addition to Weekly Treats!
WT: And finally, what are your future plans for Solarbear?
S: Well... Hard to say, honestly!! Right now BRKfest is the big bite on my plate, so I’ll probably hold off on new music until after August. After that, the sky is the limit!! Maybe a progressive chip metal album? Who knows!!!